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“Occasions for Alleluia”: David Adam


After the hurly-burly of General Synod (or, for our Episcopalian friends, General Convention), I offer you the perfect antidote: a dose of Celtic spirituality, under the familiar and wise guiding hand of the celebrated David Adam.

The Reverend David Adam, now in his late seventies, has been a lifelong priest in the Church of England. The volume of his published work vies with that of Agatha Christie, and much is still in print. (Anyone asked to lead intercessions would do well to begin with his three ‘Glory‘ books).  His appeal is much wider than simply to Anglicans – people from all Christian denominations as well as spiritual searchers as a whole are drawn to the deceptive simplicity of Celtic prayer and meditation.

Deceptively simple‘ because, though the poems look as simple as nursery rhymes, they in fact have more in common with haiku. As Daniel Barenboim said of music, ‘it is the silence between the notes‘. Adam quotes a friend  saying to him about his use of the psalms and Celtic prayers: ‘You remind me of hitting a nail with a hammer. You cannot drive it home at once, but by regular repeated actions and love you arrive where you want to be’.

‘Occasions for Alleluia’ is structured round the prayer of St Augustine of Hippo:

We shall be Amen and Alleluia.
We shall rest and we shall see.
We shall see and we shall know.
We shall know and we shall love.
We shall love and we shall praise.
Behold our end, which is no end.

David Adam, like many writers, thinks in metaphors and images. He begins with the striking image of an archer’s bow (p.3). We are all so busy with the business of living that the bow becomes ever more tightly strung ‘and a bow that is always bent will snap, as people who are always tense tend to do’. This sounds positively Zen-like, but Eastern philosophy and religion have no monopoly on this kind of metaphor, in fact lessons about bows come from the 4th century Desert Fathers. Subsequent chapters cover resting in God, seeing with the eyes of the heart, knowing God, loving God and finding joy in life and God.

I read this book in a matter of hours. Yes, I will want to re-read it, and I am sure I will find more treasures with each reading. I love the eclectic choice of quotations – Saint-Exupéry’s ‘Le Petit Prince’ (one of my favourites), Wordsworth, C  S Lewis, Alexander Carmichael, Teilhard de Chardin, Frances Hodgson Burnett, Dostoevesky, Emily Dickinson….(I could go on).

If Jonathan Clatworthy is a hippogriff, then David Adam is the archetypal seer and hermit living in a cave on top of a mountain. He continues to act as a spiritual director, and it is easy to see why. People are very drawn to him from his writing and there is a hint that he has discovered the secrets of the universe. Hindus believe in the spiritual value of darshan, or being in the physical presence of someone holy. But, while not a recluse, he is not known for appearing at festivals or book-signing tours. He values his privacy and we value it on his behalf for what it allows him to be and do.

The secret that he has discovered, of course, is hidden in plain sight. He concludes:

We shall praise: Come each day into his presence with thanksgiving. Rejoice in God’s love and salvation. Rejoice that you are one with him: that he dwells in you and you in him. Rejoice in his Creation and in all the relationships you have with it. Each day give praise and thanks to God for something in your life or in the world, something new. Behold our end, which is no end, to celebrate life: to celebrate God and his love. Let all be ‘Amen and Alleluia’, until all of life is an occasion for alleluias.



“What the publisher says about the book:
In this captivating book, David Adam aims to help us recognize that there are moments in each day of our lives that are cause for thanksgiving, when we may pause and praise God. The author explores in turn our natural ability to rest, to see, to know, to love and to enjoy – first in relation to our surroundings, and then in relation to our Creator. By the end of the volume, his hope is that a deepening awareness of the glories of the world around us will lead us, time and again, to delight in uttering ‘Alleluia!’

Illustrated with ten original watercolours by Monica Capoferri.”

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